German politician warns that boycotting Russian gas could lead to mass poverty
Germany’s vice-chancellor has warned that boycotting Russian gas and oil could lead to serious problems for the German population. However, the German government is still planning to phase out Russian energy, as it looks to alternative fuel supplies.
Vice-Chancellor warns against immediate boycott of Russian fuel
German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck, who also serves as the country’s federal economic and climate minister, has warned that any immediate boycott on Russian gas and oil could lead to a number of serious issues for Germany. “If we flip a switch immediately, there will be supply shortages, even supply stops in Germany,” Habeck told reporters last Sunday. He warned that Germany could face “mass unemployment, poverty, people who can’t heat their homes, people who run out of petrol”.
Habeck did emphasise that the federal government was working towards Germany phasing out Russian fuel. He said that while a short-term, immediate ban on Russian gas could cause major issues, Germany was looking to be in a position where it can give up Russian coal by the summer, and Russian oil by the end of the year. “With coal, oil and even gas we are step by step in the process of making ourselves independent”, the former Green party co-leader said. “But we can’t do it in an instant. That’s bitter, and it’s not a nice thing morally to confess to, but we can’t do it yet.”
Germany depends significantly on Russia for energy. In fact, 55 percent of the natural gas used in Germany comes from Russia, as does 52 percent of the coal used in Germany and 34 percent of the mineral oil. This costs Germany hundreds of millions of euros every day.
Olaf Scholz speaks out against potential ban
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has issued sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and has also broken German foreign policy protocol by allowing lethal weapons to be sent to Ukraine, as well as suspending the approval process for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and supporting Russia being cut off from the Swift payment system. However, the German chancellor has stated that Germany cannot follow the US in placing an immediate ban on Russian oil. Currently, there is no other way to secure Europe’s supply with energy to generate heat, for mobility, for power supply and for industry,” Scholz said last week.
Despite this, a number of prominent German scientists, journalists and activists have recently written an open letter to the German government, imploring it to ban Russian energy imports. Former chancellor Angela Merkel has also weighed in on the debate, suggesting that Germany closes the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, while allowing imports from elsewhere. However, the German government needs time to fill up its gas reserves, which were undersupplied last year.
Short-term alternatives to Russian energy are not exactly abundant. The German government is set to make it easier for new wind and solar farms to be authorised, yet construction takes time. As does the building of new LNG terminals, which allow gas to be more easily transported from other countries but also take around 5 years to build.